By Chris Myson
Frank Lampard’s stunning long-range goal against Newcastle on Saturday took his Chelsea goals tally to 197, just five adrift of the club’s all-time record.
The midfielder will be hopeful of sealing his place at the top of those standings by the end of the season, but sadly it appears that is all the time he has left to meet that challenge at Stamford Bridge.
The Chelsea hierarchy have controversially decided they will not be offering Lampard, who turns 35 in the summer, a new contract beyond the end of the current season.
Ashley Cole had also been tipped for an exit when his contract expired in the summer, only for the club to reach a breakthrough and extend his deal, but it appears there is nothing Lampard can do to change the decision on his own future.
A calf injury and a struggle to gain regular selection in the Premier League combined with the reluctance of the club to extend his contract meant the start of Lampard’s 2012-13 season was frustrating to say the least.
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Defying his age, Lampard has again become the heartbeat of Chelsea’s side, producing mature performances in a deeper midfield role alongside Ramires in the club’s 4-2-3-1 system.
Despite this, he has not lost his goalscoring touch. Seven goals in his last nine Premier League games have been invaluable and include a match-winning double against Everton at Goodison Park and a vital strike in the win over Arsenal, proving his continued value.
Vocal support from the club’s fans, and indeed the media, have seen rallying cries in favour of him being handed a new deal, but Chelsea will not relent.
So where next for Lampard? Spain had often been touted as a potential move in years gone by, particularly when he was with Spanish former fiancée Elen Rivas, but that was a career path which never materialised as he stayed loyal to the Blues.
More recently, he has been linked with a switch to Serie A, with Lazio in particular mentioned, but speculation mainly originating from the Italian media has been played down by the player’s camp.
Goal.com reported recently that he has also received interest from other clubs in the Premier League, but would ideally avoid staying in England with anyone other than Chelsea.
So, despite still being able to deliver at the highest level, it appears almost certain Lampard will follow in David Beckham’s footsteps and make a move to the United States.
MLS heavyweights Los Angeles Galaxy, the side Beckham recently left having won the title, have long been linked with the England midfielder as a replacement for the new PSG star.
A move is very close to being agreed, and the MLS side are not denying holding an interest in the Chelsea talisman. However, nothing is expected to be announced until the end of the current English season in June, once Lampard’s Blues career has come to an end, to avoid distractions.
Goal.com USA’s Alex Labidou believes a potential arrival in LA for Lampard may not hold the commercial appeal of David Beckham, but would represent a footballing improvement for the MLS club on the pitch.
“Frank Lampard isn't the box office draw of David Beckham but he is arguably a significant upgrade from his former England team-mate,” he said.
“Lampard is a box-to-box midfielder and while he's lost some speed over the years, he won't be the defensive liability that Beckham was.
“He won't draw a casual sports fan to the stadium as Beckham would, Lampard's arrival could well help LA become MLS frontrunners for years to come.
“Beckham was winger shifted to central midfield during his time in LA, while Lampard has played that role his entire career.”
It will be hard for Chelsea and indeed Premier League fans to say goodbye to Lampard when the time comes for him to jet off to the States in a switch that may also affect his hopes of playing on for England, an international squad he currently remains a key part of.
There is still plenty for Lampard to play for until that new challenge comes around. The club goalscoring record lie is tantalisingly close and an FA Cup triumph would be the ideal send-off.
But for a player whose fitness has always been exceptional, whose performances remain as prolific as ever and a man who still holds such strong influence with everyone associated with the club, it is hard to avoid feeling that Chelsea are making a mistake in letting him go this soon.
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